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CANíT MARRY?   DO WHAT YOU CAN DO AND DO IT NOW.

 

CANíT MARRY?   DO WHAT YOU CAN DO AND DO IT NOW.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has delivered an important ruling related to same gender marriage.  For the moment, that ruling is not likely to change most of our lives no matter where we live.  Reflect on this news as a wake up call.  There is some protection that you get automatically from marriage but there is also protection you can arrange for today.  Consider getting your personal legal and financial life in order so that you can have peace of mind.  Do you need to write or revise a will or power of attorney, make plans for children or a surviving partner, or finally get serious about retirement planning?  Start with the basics and be sure to get it done.  None of us can be confident of what might happen in our lives tomorrow.  None of us should wait for the courts or legislatures to take action for us.  There are steps you can and should be taking whether you are in a relationship or are single.

If achieving financial peace of mind is one of your goals, what are the things you need to know? While entire books can Ė and have Ė been written on financial planning for our community, there are a few high-level themes you should keep in mind.

First, if youíre in a relationship, remember that you canít take anything for granted. If youíre engaged in retirement planning, your partner canít rely on your Social Security benefits. Some benefits from your employerís retirement plan may also be unavailable to your partner. Other benefits will require careful planning to maximize withdrawals and avoid potential tax traps. Itís also important to be sure that youíve designated your partner as a beneficiary on your retirement plans.

If your personal economy includes estate planning strategies, the pitfalls are numerous. In addition to wills to ensure property goes to your partner as you intend, youíll need to think about powers of attorney to be sure your partner can make decisions if you cannot. Youíll want a priority of visitation to ensure he or she has access to you if you become incapacitated. There are special actions you need to take in some states for you to manage the burial arrangements of your partner.  You may also have to take a closer look at estate taxes, factoring in state tax laws and the implications of the recent federal tax law changes.

If buying or revising insurance policies is part of your planning, be sure they offer the protection you think they do. Auto and homeowners insurance doesnít always provide the coverage same gender couples need Ė especially if only one partnerís name is on the deed or car title. In the life insurance arena, be sure the right partner owns the insurance, and that the policy is purchased from a firm that recognizes a same gender partnerís ďinsurable interestĒ in the life of the insured.

Second, be mindful of your own attitudes toward financial planning. Historically the process may not have been very lgbt-friendly. However, the process continues to improve and many progressive financial institutions recognize the specific needs of  lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender clients, and have designed unique products and services to meet those needs. Moreover, larger social forces continue to shift more of the responsibility for financial planning to the individual Ė from retirement plans to health insurance to estate taxes, the social impact continues to change.  So itís up to you to plan for a secure retirement, assure your income stream is protected in the event of disability, make arrangements for children and to manage your investment portfolio. While you canít manage all the components of your personal economy alone, you also canít assume someone else will do it for you.

Finally, now that you know that the rules can be different, make sure you have a qualified financial advisor who does too. Itís clear there are a lot of details to consider when planning financially for gay and lesbian clients.   So itís essential to find a professional advisor who will treat you with respect, who you can trust with your personal information and who is knowledgeable about the potential issues and differences you will face.  Itís also important that your advisor works closely with financial institutions that are sensitive to the needs of the lesbian and gay community, and whose products reflect that sensitivity.  We all deserve this for ourselves and we owe it to the loved ones in our lives who care about and depend on us.

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Daniel L. Boyer is a Financial Advisor with American Express Financial Advisors based in Minneapolis, MN and can be reached at daniel.l.boyer@aexp.com    One of his specialties is comprehensive financial planning for gay and lesbian individuals and couples.

Daniel L. Boyer has a website and can be found online at http://gayfinancialadvisors.com/Minnesota.htm

American Express Financial Advisors Inc.  Member NASD. American Express Company is separate from     American Express Financial Advisors Inc. and is not a broker-dealer.